Aperture 3 Image Adjustment Controls

Part of the Aperture 3 SuperSimpleStuff™ series. You probably know that I don't talk a whole lot about image adjustments. I have reasons for that that I won't go through right now but suffice it to say they are the icing on the cake, not the actual cake. I wanted to post something that I hope will help people just starting out get over a hump that seems to be a common theme that I hear. You old timers stick around to - there may be a tidbit that can help you with your Aperture specific endeavors as well.

The "hump" I am talking about is what we'll call image adjustment anxiety. What I mean by this is the question of what adjustment "should" I use to do something. Heck there are a bunch of them. There are even a bunch that seem to have overlapping effects and function. "Which one is the RIGHT one to use?". Okay here is the cure-all for image adjustment anxiety. Are you ready?

Don't worry about it. Yes, there are lots and lots and lots of ways to get to exactly the same place and infinitely more ways to get to pretty much the same place. Once you get past the "right way to do it" anxiety you will be much better off. Here are a couple of really simple guide lines with a few Aperture 3 specific things thrown in.

  • Use the easiest most direct method to get to where you want to go. Yep - half the reason for all these different controls that sorta affect the same things is because in some cases it's easier to use one vs the other for a particular task at hand. It can also be a case of familiarity. Like to use curves instead of the contrast slider? Go ahead do whatever is quickest and easiest for you.
  • Of course you have heard this one everywhere - Aperture control blocks show up in the order that you "should" approach things that need multiple adjustments. This is generally true but do not let it make you do things that make no sense to getting what you want the quickest easiest way to get it. Don't feel you must use the contrast slider before you use a curves or level tool - that's just insane.
  • Okay, now we are on to some more practical matters specific to Aperture 3. The first one is that some Aperture adjustments "stack" and others don't. Specifically you cannot add multiple exposure bricks but you can add multiple curves bricks.The biggest thing about this for me is choosing wisely how you implement presets. An example would be choosing to implement an overall "look' with both the exposure brick and maybe a color brick. Now this is not a big deal but I usually reserve the exposure brick for per image tweaks instead of using it in presets. This way I can go through my images and do any minor image "correction" tweaks using the exposure brick and have confidence that my "image look" presets that use a curves brick will not undo my per image corrections made with the exposure brick. Don't underestimate this level of planning or write it off as minor. If you do shooting that involves a large number of images that may need overall corrections and then a few predefined "looks" applied to them (say weddings) this can be a huge time saver and generally you want to think about things like this in terms of your overall work-flow efficiency.
  • Aperture 3 noise reduction sucks. Don't get me wrong, Aperture has it's automagic RAW processing noise thing it does that is pretty good. I am talking about it's Noise reduction adjustment brick. I have written it off as useless and slow.

That's enough for now. The main point is do what is easy and what looks good. Don't worry too too much about order or "righteousness" when going about using Aperture 3 adjustments. I do promise to be a bit more disiplined in posting more SuperSimpleStuff™ and some more specific thoughts on adjustments. For those of you waiting and asking me about the Aperture 3 adjustment eBook - I'm workin' on it. I have re-re-re-written it about 3 times so far. I don't want to regurgitate "here is what each block does" kind of stuff. I want it to be more work-flow oriented, practical, and above all more about the "why" not the "what".


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